On Friday I handed in the final assignment toward my Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Guidance and Counselling). I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for completing it because it’s been pretty hard slog some of the time, what with home schooling three kids as well. But I made it. These types of achievements always make me reflective, and I’ve been doing a lot of that over the past two days. Last night I was lying in bed thinking about how this feels like a really long time coming, even though I only started this particular course of study a little under three years ago. I could look back across the years and see that really, this path started when I was a child, I just had no idea.
There are two strands that run through my life, stronger than all the others. One is my love of writing, and the other is my natural ability to be there for others. I was always the ‘buddy’ at school, never the aggressor, but never passive either. I was the confidant, the friend when you needed it, that person you could trust never to say anything, trust to still look you in the eye and respect you afterwards even when you weren’t sure you could respect yourself. I started my ‘career’ in counselling more officially when I trained to be a peer support person at school, and that unofficial role has followed me through life. I do it naturally, I find it hard not to. I strive to see the good in everyone and to help them see their way through the rough patches, see that they can move on, move forward. But that was just something you did in your spare time. It wasn’t a career. I was just a ‘good friend’ and there isn’t a job for that. Not one that would make me any money.
I can recall writing stories non stop as a child. I remember always going way bigger with my ideas than anyone else in my class, always being the one who spun the tale, invented the backstory and characters for games played with cousins across long summer afternoons. As soon as we got a computer I started using it, spending an hour or more writing novels as soon as I got home from high school. I can still feel the nervous excitement at printing one out and passing it to my art teacher to read, seeing that encouraging expression on her face which said she really wanted to like it but thought she might not, and then witnessing her genuine response when she handed it back and acknowledged that I actually had a good story there.
I have always told stories. But, I was always by everyone told that I could never make a job out of it, it could only ever be a hobby, so I better pick something else.
I never know what that was. Well, that’s what I believed anyway. I was told that the things I loved, the things I was naturally good at, passionate about, driven to do, were not good career choices. They were hobbies, or things to do on the side. I was not to put my future in the things that I love. My choices were not good enough. I had to pick again.
Is it any wonder that I’ve never had a real career? I left high school and enrolled in business studies through the local Polytech because my high school guidance counsellor saw that I was good with maths, so I should do business. For lack of a better idea, I did as he suggested – everyone was so proud. I HATED it. I finished the year out, even though it was painful and I was miserable. And then I quit and got a job at a supermarket. Which I also hated. I moved to Palmerston North and did a Diploma in Design and Multimedia, which was great fun, but not really my thing. I never had the flair that others had. My creative passion was words, not images. I cross-credited my business papers towards a BA and planned to major in English and History. I could be a teacher. I’d loved learning at school, had an amazing history teacher who really challenged me and helped me thrive. But it was all pretty dry, and I soon put it on hold as life fell apart for a bit.
I picked it back up again, and after my father commented that I’m always helping people out maybe I should get a degree in that so someone would actually pay me for it, that I opted to switch my double major from English/History to English/Psychology. And it was okay. I finished it. Graduated. But psychology was too much science for me, and not enough about being with people. Not ground roots enough for me.
I had kids, and I think that’s where things really changed for me because I began to understand that I didn’t want any of this for my kids. If they had a passion, I wanted them to follow it, but in order for that to happen I had to SHOW them the way. I began to write more seriously. In the days when they napped it was pretty easy to keep at it. I got some stories published. I won an award for my editing. I raised some funds for charity. I made the short list for a short story award. I’m actually pretty good at this thing I love so much, this thing which keeps me going even in my darkest days. And the kids can see the books on the bookshelf to prove it. They can see the award sitting on my desk. More importantly they can see the fire in my eyes when I talk story, when I engage with their worlds, when I want to hear what’s going on in their heads.
And then a few years ago I decided that I finally wanted to do something about becoming a counsellor for real. I started some training through Lifeline, but it was just after things started to go sour for Ivy at school, so as much as it crushed me I opted out of that – for all the right reasons if you ask me. However, it spurred me to enrol in Uni again and now three years later I am finished.
I can’t go out and work as a counsellor right now. I’m too busy home schooling after all 😉 But I have some invaluable tools, and I plan to do my Masters further down the track, and the kids have seen this example of their mother, following her passions, working hard, really hard, to achieve something. And the grin on my face, the pride shining in my eyes, that will stick with them. I can’t wait to attend graduation next year.
I want, so badly, for them to know that it’s okay to pursue their passions no matter what they are. I will never be the mother that says ‘no, that won’t make you any money’, or the one that says ‘you need a backup plan’, or any of the other lines I heard a million times. I’m going to be behind there, cheering them on, helping them make the right choices to get to their goals, and I know, without any doubt, that they’ll have this all figured out a whole lot earlier than I did. It doesn’t matter if they don’t earn a massive wage, because real happiness cannot be found in a large bank account statement.